By Freeman Razemba
Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo is set to travel to South Africa on Friday next week to engage his counterpart Malusi Gigaba on how best to assist Zimbabweans in that country under the Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP).
This comes after South Africa last month announced that Zimbabweans who acquired permits under the special dispensation will have to follow the normal channel of applying for work and study visas when their permits expire in December this year.
That means about 200 000 Zimbabweans in South Africa face deportation when their special dispensation permits expire on December 31.
They will have to return home to apply for new permits.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, Dr Chombo said the ZSP was introduced in April 2009 after Zimbabwe and South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
The ZSP was meant to facilitate the regularisation of Zimbabweans living in South Africa without requisite documentation.
“The current dispensation is expiring on the 31st of December 2017. Indications from our embassy in South Africa are that the Minister of Home Affairs in South Africa (Malusi Gigaba) is expected to announce the cabinet position on the review of the ZSP and expectations are that South Africa is most unlikely to extend the ZSP and holders of these permits will be expected to apply for alternative permits/visas whilst in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Dr Chombo said currently, 197 790 Zimbabweans hold this type of permit and are living and working in South Africa.
“As the Minister of Home Affairs, I will be travelling to South Africa on the 17th of March 2017, where I will engage my South African counterpart with a view of finding solutions to problems facing our citizens who are currently living in South Africa,” he said.
In February, Minister Gigaba confirmed speculation in mainstream and on social media that ZSP holders wishing to extend their stay at the expiry of their permits would do so under the conventional immigration laws.
He said when the South African government introduced ZSP in August 2014, it had no intention of conferring Zimbabweans with permanent residence status.
The special dispensation allowed Zimbabwean holders of the special permit to work, conduct business or study in South Africa for three years.
Meanwhile, Dr Chombo said following the commissioning of the Passport Production Centre by President Mugabe on April 8 last year, the Registrar General’s Department was now capable of producing an e-passport also known as digital passport.
“This passport has enhanced security features as it combines both the paper and electronic passport, whereby the biometric data of an individual is also stored on an electronic chip embedded within the passport.
“This e-passport is compliant to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, which guarantees the integrity expected of travel documents. Preparations are on course to launch the e-passport,” he said. The Herald